10.07.2004

Debate Style and Other Extracurricular Activities

These things always take longer than I expect, so I'll split them in half. The medium is important to the subconscious, but it can be a mistake to put too much emphasis on style, lest it backfire later on, as I think it may have already.

On the TV I watched, I gave style largely to Edwards because I thought Cheney's tie looked like one of those sickly pale things that Kerry sometimes wears that makes him look drained of blood. Pale colors are fine if mixed with the proper colors, but not with his present suits. I'm not the only guy commenting on Kerry's attire (Daniel Pinkwater humorously discusses the less substantive points of choosing candidates), but I mention only in the hope that someone in his party just lucks across this and helps him choose the right color--someone neither fashion-impaired nor fashion-coked. Luckily, no one's wearing those obnoxious monstrosities that Rush Limbaugh was promoting back in the early nineties. It must have been a show of Republican solidarity to buy one, but it took enormous guts to actually wear the entire noon-day Amazon in office--polarized sunglasses might have dimmed the permanent retinal damage they inflicted upon viewers. Most guys were wearing ugly ties that season, anyway, I guess. But I later saw the Cheney tie on the internet in its proper color and approve of its non-paleness.

60 Minutes did a fluff piece on Edwards at the beginning of the year--the only substantive remark of which I remember was "He's not just another pretty face," from which we're supposed to think only of his pretty face, lacking any other substance from the context of conversation. I didn't think it so pretty(I somehow doubt Edwards would be offended by my judgement). He didn't land any punches at the Iowa primary debates that I saw, so he must have some kind of allure. He does have great teeth that help his winning smile, so he might smile a little more often but not so much that he comes off insipid.

He picked up his children for what looked like a photo-op, but I suspect most saw only the love he has for his kids, which translates into a net gain. More impressive, however, was what may have been not only Cheney's daughter but her lover on stage with the vice president. If Bush weren't so outspoken on the subject, it might have lost the Republican pious-pharisee vote, I mean, a few of the religious right, but it might have also have gained a few of the less polarized homosexual vote. I give Cheney several points for blurring the artificial party lines this way, but I suspect most Americans only saw the children onstage.

Kerry ought to have had his daughters on stage after his debate as well, which I forgot to mention earlier. I don't know why I feel it so important, but a family that loves and supports your candidacy ranks high on my list subconscious voting techniques.

Republicans had the opportunity to reverse the damage, if any, that "Faces of Frustration" had by putting out a video of their own: "Eyeblinks of Frustration." If you weigh debates by style alone and you're a Democrat, you'd have gotten burned for touting that video as the soles means of gauging victory. But for lack of Republican insight or their lack of stylistic interest, I didn't hear about any such video.

Yesterday, On the Media, a radio program on NPR, spoke of Kerry's "respectful smile"--even though it came out of the same emotional place as Bush's many grimaces. Otherwise, it's an informative program although one piece earlier had the same correspondent trying to talk the media out of balanced coverage by citing the problems of covering global warming--a problem easily resolved by pointing out that only 1 in 50 (or however many) scientists in the field actively oppose the theory.

Where Edwards shone was at the beginning and ending of the debate. He had little new material to add that Kerry hadn't already said, but he came out swinging which probably helped invigorate his party for a verbal spar. Even more of interest to those of us moved by fiction is his use of narrative technique to close, employing emotively charged imagery to help stamp home his positions. Cheney mostly rambled over his main points again.

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